I can trace the root of my ill-informed ideas about soulmates back to season six episode 12 of the CW classic, One Tree Hill. Are soulmates real? This episode seemingly answered this question for me. Brooke, the once bratty cheerleader turned business-savvy fashion-mogul (goals) is alone in her shop, ugly-dancing to "The Breakfast Club" soundtrack. Enthralled in the dance, she doesn’t even notice when Julian — the unwavering love of her life — enters the store and instantly falls in love. This moment is organic, but of course, completely staged for Network television.
What the "Brooke dance" really instilled in me at a young age is that you can somehow control the way that your star-crossed lover first sees “the real you,” and that you can arrange your own life to stage this moment. When I think about soulmates, I think about this notion of "staging your authenticity." About accidentally (but totally-on-purpose) bumping into your crush at their favorite coffee place, wearing a shirt of a band you both like. I ponder how sometimes, I do the things I do normally in hopes that someone will see me doing it, and think I’m funnier or smarter or cooler for it.
The "Brooke dance" is about wanting to be seen so unabashedly as "being yourself" and hoping that in doing so you’re creating moments for your soulmate to make their first appearance. And that you will build a life together, stemming from that one perfect moment. Yet, to consistently have one eye on who’s coming through the door, and living as though your perfect mate could enter at any point, can be extremely suffocating. I now know that I don’t want to go through life waiting for my soulmate to suddenly walk in.
I reached out to three relationship experts about the expanding conversation around soulmates. Here’s what they had to say.
You are your own soulmate.
Creating a life dedicated to finding and mating with one other person creates a tunnel vision, eye-on-the-prize mentality. You may start looking at your partner as something you’ve accomplished. A long-term relationship can be beautiful and enriching, but it isn’t your life’s work. Your romantic relationships do not define you.
As Shula Melamed, a relationship and wellbeing coach says, "a healthier and more balanced approach might be to understand that there are many people you can connect with, but that they might not all be relationship material because of one reason or another. We have many chances in life to meet and connect its just whether or not we allow ourselves the opportunity to do so."
There is room for different kinds of soulmates throughout different parts of your life — so you can stop looking for just one.
Humans cannot be fully captured in one moment
If you do meet "the one" and embark on a gooey and beautiful love, there are going days in your relationship when you will be angry. You’ll get sick, petty, boring, annoyed, and every other human emotion. And in turn, you often have to adapt to your partner being both different from you, and different from what you expected. The "Brook dance" soulmate moment implies an unrealistic level of perfection. "Aw, look at her ugly-dancing, she’s so carefree and fun! She won’t make me go to therapy or do my dishes like my boring ex." (This is what I imagine goes on in Julian’s head.)
Professor Dr. Jason Whiting tells Elite Daily that "one problem with the ‘soul mate’ ideal is it can make normal relationship bumps feel like anxiety-inducing red flags. A couple might have a disagreement that results in hurt feelings, but someone looking for an idealized relationship then thinks they have ended up with the wrong person."
You don’t need to date a fleeting moment — you just need to be seen as yourself, and loved.
You’re still going to be your own person.
So the stars aligned and love came all at once. Or they didn’t, and you worked hard and fought for the love you’ve found. Still, just because you might have met the love of your life, doesn’t mean that your life now belongs to them.
"Life doesn’t stop — nor should it — just because we have found a partner we fall in love with," relationship counselor Dr. Gary Brown tells Elite Daily. "While it is truly wonderful to have a soulmate to share our lives with, their is much more to life for us to enjoy. Life has so many wonderful textures! Embrace your relationship? Sure. Just don’t let it be everything to you."
Scrutinizing over whether or not you’ve found your soulmate can put immense pressure on any relationship. And if you try to sustain yourself on another person, you may both suffer for it. So instead, work towards building a fulfilling relationship with yourself, and enjoying the person you’re with in the present moment — instead of obsessing over what they might mean to you in the future. Live your best life for the now, not for the then.
There is no one way to meet "the one". Moreover, when you have met someone who you love, support, and want to be with, you’ll experience multiple magical moments together. Spending too much time and energy looking for your soulmate won’t necessarily open us up to the concept of love, but it does have the ability to close us off from what’s right in front of us. Live your life doing what makes you happy, and the right people will find their way in.
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